Gifts from the kitchen
It’s not too late to make a few simple, last-minute gifts from the kitchen. Packaged prettily in fancy glass jars or decorative bowls, tied with ribbons and topped with a tiny ornament or sprig of green, each of these three would make a delicious hostess gift.
This treat from Moorish Spain takes advantage of readily available winter citrus. You can marinate the olives for a minimum of 24 hours or as long as a week. The longer they marinate, the better they taste.
2 cups mixed green olives, pitted or cracked
6 small garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press
2 tablespoons grated tangerine rind ½ cup fresh tangerine juice
4 thin lemon slices, halved and seeded
3 to 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar ¼ extra-virgin olive oil
2 small bay leaves
½ dried chile de árbol, crumbled Generous pinch ground cumin
Place all ingredients in a large glass jar and shake or stir to mix well. Cover the jar and let the olives marinate at room temperature overnight, shaking occasionally. Or put the jar in the refrigerator and let them marinate up to a week, shaking once in a while. (Adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen, Workman Publishing, 2005)
These spiced pecans go well with a glass of wine or a cocktail; they can also be used to add some savory crunch to a green salad.
SPICED PECANS ¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar (can substitute a large pinch of stevia)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups pecan halves
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first four dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Stir in the oil and stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Toss the pecans into the bowl, stirring to coat them as evenly as possible. Pour onto a baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they color slightly. Let cool completely before packaging in an airtight container; the nuts will keep well for about a week. (Adapted from The Essential New York
Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010)
This recipe for Italy’s favorite afterdinner drink, also adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, can be completed in three weeks — just in time for holiday gifting. A fancy glass bottle that seals tightly and an optional pair of shot glasses completes the package.
12 lemons, scrubbed
1 (750 ml.) bottle good vodka ½ cup sugar
½ cup water
Finely grate the zest of the lemons and combine with the vodka in a large glass jar. (You can squeeze the lemons and freeze the juice for lemon bars or next summer’s lemonade.) Cover tightly and let stand in a cool, dark place for two weeks, shaking the jar occasionally.
At the end of that time, mix the sugar with the water in a small pan and heat until it dissolves. Let cool to room temperature.
Strain the vodka mixture through a very fine sieve or a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a large bowl. Add the sugar syrup to the vodka and mix well.
Sterilize a 1-liter glass bottle and use a funnel to pour the vodka mixture into it. Let stand in a cool dark place for another week, then store it in the freezer. Serve in chilled shot glasses. Cin cin!